Refugees find a new voice on radio

Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Community radio station Radio Adelaide has come together with students and staff from TAFE SA's English Language Services for an innovative new project which creates greater awareness of the physical and emotional journeys taken by refugees.

The resulting collaboration is a special radio program, Australia Here We Come!, which premieres this Thursday (September 29) at 8pm on Radio Adelaide 101.5fm, as part of Refugee Week.

Devised and created by the students and teachers, it features contributions from students from Sudan, China, Iran, Congo, Bangladesh and many other countries. They sing songs that are important to them, tell stories of their feelings about being in Australia and interview refugees about their experiences in this country, including Sudanese social worker Paul Atem and Adelaide "pie king" Vili Milisits.

Hosted by Tibo Rogers from Sierra Leone and Akoi Manyel from Sudan, the program features students including Indra Gosh from Bangladesh, who has recorded many songs for radio in her home country, singing and playing harmonium; Amani Homad from Sudan and Eritrea who interviews her classmates about their experiences of Australia; and Yun Wu from China, whose love of music arose from a family that played and sang together.

Two Iranian students, Hojat Mohammadi and Mohammad Torkamani, contribute a song that emerged from their shared experience of arriving in Australia, and Bolivian musician and instrument-maker, Edi Omonte Torrico, plays his pan flute and charango (12-stringed guitar) to bring the Andes mountains into view!

The project originated when English as a Second Language lecturers Margaret Gunn and Rae Ogilvie approached Radio Adelaide with an idea about using radio as a new way to build students' confidence in speaking their new language.

"I didn't have much idea about how to do it, but I knew that creating a radio program would provide a real reason for students to speak English," says Margaret. "It would also give students the chance to learn about how the media works in Australia and extend their understanding of the cultural context that is an essential part of learning a language."

As a result of the program, one student is developing plans to use radio to communicate to young people in his community and two others have been booked for future performances!

Radio Adelaide's Deborah Welch says: "Radio is all about communication and it's great to be part of a project that brings new people to the microphone. We see access for new communities as a critical part of community radio's role, both for the communities themselves and for all our listeners, who relish the opportunity to hear different views and voices."

In a nice twist, Radio Adelaide's producer on the project, Don Balaz, was himself a former ELS student, attending in the early 1990s when he arrived in Adelaide from Czechoslovakia without any English language. Don has been a staff member at Radio Adelaide since 1994 and was appointed Audio Production Co-ordinator in 2001.

"The overwhelming impression from the program is the sense of possibility that comes from the refguees' new life in Adelaide; the opportunity to provide their children with education and the chance to develop their own skills," says Margaret. "While it's common to hear people complaining about Adelaide being too quiet, many of the participants talk about 'the quiet' with a sense of both gratitude and wonder.

"From a refugee camp to Rundle Mall is a long journey. The ability to communicate and share experiences is particularly important in making the transition, and learning English is one of the important steps in building a new life in Adelaide."

Australia Here We Come! premieres on Radio Adelaide 101.5fm at 8pm, Thursday September 29, or listen via its website.

Radio Adelaide is part of the University of Adelaide.


Contact Details

Ms Deborah Welch
Radio Adelaide
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5000
Mobile: 0418 887 035

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762